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Best online doctorate in sports management 2022: Top picks

A sports management doctorate integrates research and analysis into the business side of the sports and recreation industry.
Written by Melissa Sartore, Contributor

Sports management focuses on sport and recreation from a business perspective. Students study public perceptions of sport, sport culture, and how to optimize earnings and communications both on and off the field.

Earning a doctorate in sports management provides learners with the skills to rise to the top of the sports management field. Sports management professionals work in interscholastic and intercollegiate athletics, professional sport organizations, and at health, fitness, and recreation facilities. With sports and recreation an important part of our daily lives, sports management professionals thrive as coaches, personal managers and agents, and educators. 

To find out about the top sports management doctoral degrees in 2022, check out the information below.  

Top 2 online schools for doctorates in sports management: Quick facts


Program stats

How much?

Concordia University Chicago

River Forest, IL

  • Ph.D. in Sports Leadership
  • Acceptance rate: 78.5%
  • Graduation rate: 49%
  • Affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod

Avg. annual net price: $16,512

Application fee: $50

Troy University

Troy, AL

  • Ph.D. in Sport Management
  • Acceptance rate: 88%
  • Graduation rate: 33%
  • Designed for working sport practitioners and leaders

Avg. annual net price: $14,285

Application fee: $50

The best online doctorate in sports management degrees

ZDNet's ranking methodology uses a proprietary formula to assess college degree programs. Data-driven and curated by industry professionals, ZDNet's independent and comprehensive evaluation offers insight into the curricula, cost, and reputability of the best online sports management doctorates. 

Unless otherwise indicated, data is drawn from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Scorecard.

1. Concordia University Chicago

River Forest, Illinois

About the program: CUC, an institution affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, offers an interdisciplinary online Ph.D. in sports leadership in conjunction with Sport Management Worldwide. 

  • Acceptance rate: 78.5%
  • Graduation rate: 49%
  • Avg. annual net price: $16,512
  • Years to completion: Three (accelerated format) 
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery methods: Asynchronous

2. Troy University

Troy, Alabama

About the program: Troy's online Ph.D. in sport management emphasizes contemporary, theoretical and applied studies of sports management for sport practitioners and sports management educators alike.

  • Acceptance rate: 88%
  • Graduation rate: 33%
  • Avg. annual net price: $14,285
  • Years to completion: Three to eight
  • GRE/GMAT: Currently waived
  • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
  • Enrollment periods per year: Two
  • Course delivery methods: Asynchronous

What to expect in an online doctorate in sports management degree program

An online doctorate in sports management begins with coursework in fundamentals of the discipline alongside research methods classes. Students learn about the sports industry in seminars, lectures, and through independent assignments. 

Through the first years of a doctoral program, learners identify an area of interest to focus on throughout their studies. After a series of comprehensive exams, Students undertake an advanced research project that culminates in the presentation and defense of a dissertation. 

Earning an online doctorate requires dedication and determination. Doctoral students work closely with faculty throughout the program, an essential component to successful completion of a sports management degree.

Doctorate in sports management courses

Specific coursework in sports management doctorates differs by program, but some similarities exist across curricula. Classes in sport administration, issues in contemporary sport, and legal aspects of sport accompany research methods and statistics classes.

Sports administration 

Sports administration coursework explores theoretical concepts and principles in sport while training students to apply them to practical situations. Learners use case studies, discussion forums, and interactive assignments to build understanding of effective and efficient sport administration practices.

Contemporary sport

Contemporary sport classes teach students about the historical foundations of sport in society, politics, and economics in anticipation of assessing the role sport plays in today's world. Topics include community and youth sport, interscholastic and intercollegiate athletics, diversity in sport, and sociological aspects of sports management.

Applied statistics in sports management

An applied statistics in sports management course introduces learners to the many statistical models used to assess sport-related data. Students build analytical skills as they collect, interpret, and apply data to questions, challenges, and issues related to the sport industry.

Qualitative research in sports management

Qualitative research in sports management coursework trains students to employ research methodologies based on non-statistical frameworks. Topics include research questions, ethics in research, building questionnaires, and research sampling.

Sports management degree levels

Sports management degree levels meet the needs of students at different stages of their academic and professional careers. A certificate in sports management serves as an introduction into the discipline. Associate and bachelor's degrees provide foundational information for individuals who seek to enter the sports management profession, while graduate programs allow for advancement within the field of sports management. 

Certificate in sports management

  • Length: One year or less
  • Cost: $1,000-$3,000
  • Post-grad careers: Interscholastic athletic coach, public relations associate, sport marketing assistant

At the undergraduate level, a certificate in sports management introduces students to the fundamentals of sport marketing, law, ethics, and finance. Graduate certificates in sports management emphasize marketing and sponsorships, sport event management, and sport sociology to build upon existing business and sport knowledge.

With an undergraduate certificate, learners can enter the sports management field, while a graduate certificate gives business professionals an opportunity to move into the area of sports management. A graduate certificate builds understanding of the ever-changing sport business landscape to enhance leadership skills for practicing sports managers. 

Associate in sports management

  • Length: Two years
  • Cost: $6,000-$22,000
  • Post-grad careers: Sporting event planner, stadium operations assistant, sport sales specialist

A sports management associate degree includes two years of coursework in marketing, accounting, and business essentials as they relate to the sport industry. Learners learn about sports organizations at amateur and professional levels, sporting goods companies, and sport administration in educational settings in anticipation of an entry-level role in sports management.

Some associate degrees in sports management may include an internship or practical learning requirement. An associate in sports management also prepares students to continue onto a graduate degree in the discipline. 

Bachelor's in sports management

  • Length: Four years
  • Cost: $12,000-$120,000
  • Post-grad careers: Sport marketer, sport facility manager, sport public relations associate

Through four years of general education and major coursework, a bachelor's in sports management program builds comprehensive understanding of the sport industry. Coursework in sport and society, sport facility and event management, and sport marketing accompanies classes in sport law, philosophy of sport, and sport law. 

Learners often complete one or more practical requirements as part of a sports management bachelor's degree. Additional capstone courses allow students to synthesize degree content through a group project, portfolio assignment, or comparable culminating assignment. 

Master's in sports management

  • Length: Two years
  • Cost: $14,000-$80,000
  • Post-grad careers: Athletic director, senior sport marketer, sport organization operations manager

A sports management master's degree builds advanced understanding of marketing, organizational behavior, and business operations as they relate to the spirit industry. Many master's degrees in sports management include specializations in topics such as athletic administration and coaching, sport law, and international sport. 

Master's degrees in sports management integrate research coursework to build analytical skills, often in anticipation of a thesis or comprehensive project requirement. Additional requirements may include one or more internships or practicums. 

Doctorate in sports management

  • Length: Three to five years
  • Cost: $25,000-$120,000
  • Post-grad careers: University professor, sport marketing director, sport organization operations manager 

A doctorate in sports management may be a Ph.D., a doctor of business administration with a concentration in sports management, or a doctor of education in athletic administration specialization. Most sports management doctorates are Ph.D. programs and emphasize research in the business of sport.

Students in a doctoral program in sports management complete research methods coursework alongside classes on topics such as sport ethics, sport leadership, and sport in society. Comprehensive exams precede an advanced research project that results in a dissertation. Depending on the type of doctorate, learners may also complete an internship or practical requirement.

In conclusion

A sports management degree unites sport and business, ideal for individuals interested in both. With a doctorate in sports management, students possess the advanced analytical and critical thinking skills needed to study and understand the business of sports. 

The information on this page can help you determine if earning a doctorate in sports management degree is right for you.

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